The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States and exposes their activities to law enforcement agencies, the media and the public. We publish our investigative findings online, on our Hatewatch blog, and in the Intelligence Report, our award-winning quarterly journal. We’ve crippled some of the country’s most notorious hate groups by suing them for murders and other violent acts committed by their members.
Currently, there are 939 known hate groups operating across the country, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others.
Since 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 56 percent. This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president.
These factors also are feeding a powerful resurgence of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement, which in the 1990s led to a string of domestic terrorist plots, including the Oklahoma City bombing. The number of Patriot groups, including armed militias, skyrocketed following the election of President Obama in 2008 – rising 813 percent, from 149 groups in 2008 to an all-time high of 1,360 in 2012. The number fell to 1,096 in 2013.
This growth in extremism has been aided by mainstream media figures and politicians who have used their platforms to legitimize false propaganda about immigrants and other minorities and spread the kind of paranoid conspiracy theories on which militia groups thrive.
Fighting Hate in Court
In the early 1980s, SPLC co-founder and chief trial counsel Morris Dees pioneered the strategy of using the courts to battle organized, violent hate groups. Since then, we have won numerous large damage awards on behalf of victims of hate group violence. These cases are funded entirely by our supporters; we accept no legal fees from the clients we represent.
Among the groups shut down by crushing jury verdicts in SPLC cases are the White Aryan Resistance, the United Klans of America, the White Patriot Party militia and the Aryan Nations.
These cases have made the SPLC and Dees reviled enemies of the extremist movement. Our headquarters in Montgomery has been the target of numerous plots by extremist groups, including a firebombing that destroyed our offices in 1983. Several dozen people have been sent to prison for plotting against Dees or the SPLC.
Training Law Enforcement
SPLC representatives communicate regularly with law enforcement agencies about extremist activity and conduct in-person training for officers at the local, state and federal level. Thousands of officers have received training that helps them recognize and deal with hate crimes as well as threats posed by extremists. This training is available free to law enforcement agencies.